Not just a great Madonna track from the 80s (I can still picture the poster I had of her on my bedroom wall, in all her 80s leg warmer glory). Opening your heart can be quite an uncomfortable journey, but the older I get the more I believe that allowing yourself to reveal, expose, reconcile your innermost feelings – even if just to yourself – is the path to serenity and peace.
For me, there is a direct inextricable link between my physical and mental wellbeing. When I’m feeling down, often it’s related to a physical low as well. Sometimes I don’t recognise it at the time, only with the benefit of the backward gaze. After the birth of my first I dropped into a bit of a trough in body and spirit…it seems so obvious looking back, but a traumatic birth was followed by feelings of failure and melancholy which were compounded by a total denial of sleep by my mini sleep vampire for over a year. Any thoughts of revitalising my soul by taking proper time to nurture my body were simply not available to me at the time amidst the endless crying (baby’s…and probably mine…), nappies, baby sleep books, coffee and biscuits fug.
A few miscarriages followed in the 2 years after Maurice was born, and my vitality was completely depleted, I had totally lost my mojo. Where was I? Who was I? Didn’t I used to have a bit more joy and oomph…? No time, must carry on…it’ll all be fine…
A shoulder injury made me turn to an osteopath for help, and in turn carve out more time for yoga, for doing (rather than just teaching) Pilates…and slowly but surely layers were peeled off and I began to emerge into the sunlight again.
This was not a new lesson for me…Ten years ago one of my most wonderful, cool and brilliant friends died suddenly. The wind was utterly taken from my sails. In the immediate aftermath of her death I had a Thailand trip booked, and departed feeling like a limp fragile fledgling not ready to leave the nest. I saw a sign on the beach for a yoga retreat and decided to leave my comfort zone and check it out. That yoga session in the open air coconut grove utterly changed my life (not least because an epiphany there made me decide to train as a Pilates teacher and follow my passion). Simply, I found my breath, I opened my heart, I connected to my body and realised how lucky I was to be alive even though Zoe wasn’t. I imprinted that day in my soul and took a snapshot, to always refer to.
Every time I do yoga i revisit in part that single yoga session in koh phangan. I close my eyes, soften my muscles, wake up my centre, breathe, and I’m there. I have pictures of the retreat up on my wall in my Pilates studio (I subsequently returned there several times, once to teach Pilates there). My recent yoga retreat in Ibiza reminded me to try to peel off those layers once more. It may be hard to find in every day life.. It’s so easy to get bogged down in “there’s no time”, in the clutter of life but then allow the constant niggle of a dodgy back get you down a little bit more every day to chip away at your resilience…so I’d say this was essential maintenance – a regular MOT if you like, to make sure you find a space, a moment, daily or weekly at least – where you can return to life, to breathe, to move. To remind you why you’re here. To enable you to embrace the craziness with a bit more gusto and grace. To open your heart.